Started in a very small way, credit only microfinance institution now has a countrywide presence and it is aiming at entering the regional market
By George Gichuki
Building successful enterprises (irrespective of their size) is not a walk in the park. Whereas there is no clear cut way of going about it, outstanding entrepreneurs are renowned for being visionary, resilient and resolute. As they get up after falling down countless times in the quest to achieve their goals, they avoid becoming complacent. As Jim Collins, the author of ‘Good to Great,’ a high selling leadership book says: ‘Good is the enemy of great.’ For that reason he adds: ‘The vast majority of companies never become great, precisely because the vast majority become quite good – and that is their main problem.” Collins is right. At no point should entrepreneurs relax as they strive to grow their organizations to greatness.
On a close look, that is philosophy behind the phenomenal growth of Progressive Credit within a short span of ten years. Set up in a tiny office (measuring only 321 square feet) in the then Pan Africa House (now Sanlam House) which is located in Nairobi’s central business district, few people would have imagined that the leading credit only microfinance institution would have grown to its current status. “We started with only four employees and our first customer (Josephat Mwangi Irungu) got a small loan of Kshs. 150, 000,” recalls Mr. Mbaabu Muchiri, the lender’s founding chief executive officer.
Fast forward to 2022. Progressive Credit now occupies two wings with ultra-modern offices at Flamingo Towers in Upper Hill, Nairobi. It has a customer base of 18,000, twenty six branches countrywide and three hundred and fifty two members of staff. Most significantly, its loan book has grown to over Kshs. 1.2 billion. That is no mean achievement. “We struggled a lot in our early days but we did not throw in the towel,” says Mr. Mbaabu. “We started our business operations in December 2011 and we thank God that today we are still running – this is our eleventh year in business and last year, we celebrated our tenth anniversary,” he adds.
Unique value proposition
According to Mr. Mbaabu, Progressive Credit’s unique value proposition is the speed, flexibility and friendliness it embraces while serving its customers. “Our customers are keen on getting solutions to their needs within the shortest time possible,” says Mr. Mbaabu adding that every branch has a customer champion while in the headquarters, there is a fully fledged customer service department. The lender therefore gets a lot of repeat business and referrals.
Most of Progressive Credit’s customers are small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In that regard, the lender has developed a pool of products including:business loans, agribusiness loans, salary loans, log book loans, bodaboda loans among others. Additionally, these customers can take bridging finance in order to improve their businesses.
The lender also offers micro credit to customers in thelower end of the market. Customers in this market segment mainly run micro, small and medium enterprises like vegetable and second hand stalls as well as food kiosks. “A micro customer may take a loan for three or six months and even one year depending on his needs,” says Mr. Mbaabu. Micro credit aims at transforming the lives of the vulnerable members of the society who are mainly the youth and women. It is the lender’s flagship product given the many customers requiring it.
Given its strong rural presence, Progressive Credit offers agribusiness loans in various value chains like horticulture, dairy and poultry. In the same vein, it offers check off loans to civil servants and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) employees.
Progressive Credit also provides non-financial services to its customers so that they can effectively manage their loans and businesses. These services include training them on financial literacy and book keeping.
Progressive Credit has established various departments that are necessary in supporting a growing business. They include: operations, finance, human resource, legal, quality assurance, internal audit and marketing. “The heads of these departments are based in our head office and they serve the entire branch network,” Mr. Mbaabu says. “They are supported by product specialists,” he adds. The branches and their respective units are headed by managers.
Driving the lender’s strategy is a board of directors. The board has been in place for the last four years and it has gone a long way in strengthening the lender’s corporate governance.
As a responsible corporate citizen, Progressive Credit is engaged in programmes through which it gives back to the community. Its flagship corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme focuses on supporting university and tertiary institutions students to pay for accommodation and food. “Even after settling their fees, most of the students in our universities and tertiary institutions struggle to get money to pay for their food and accommodation and we have therefore decided to fill that gap,” says Mr. Mbaabu. By the same token, Progressive Credit supports a number of children’s homes with food, and clothes among other important needs.
In view of the evolving market trends, Progressive Credit has embraced technology in a significant way. To start with, the lender disburses loans and collects the same via the M-Pesa platform. It has also interlinked all its branches and the headquarters via technology, hence offering seamless services to its customers in a timely manner.
Progressive Credit‘s vision is to become a significant player in the non-deposit taking micro financing space. To that end, it is investing heavily in an infrastructure and human capital that will make it a great company. “We would like to have positive impact on the society in a big way,” Mr. Mbaabu avers. “We are optimistic of achieving that goal by growing our branch network, developing more products and increasing the number of our customers,” he adds.
Underpinning this vision is that the lender will focus on giving its customers exemplary service effectively and efficiently asit grows their numbers.
On an ambitious note, Progressive Credit is eyeing the regional market. “As part of our expansion plans, we are currently carrying out a feasibility study on the most viable market to enter in the region,” says Mr. Mbaabu. Going by this sound track record, there is no doubt that Progressive Credit is on a road to greatness. Indeed, it pays to set audacious goals and stay focused on achieving them.